Body Image: The Struggle Of The Beardless Man

Beardless Man - 1As anyone who has read my blog or follows me on social media has seen, I am always sporting a clean-shaven look. Now, it’s important to note that this is not strictly through choice, but also because I simply am unable to grow any reasonable amount of facial hair. For some context, I’m 27, I eat a healthy diet, maintain a regular exercise routine and sleep as well as keeping a keeping my skin clear and moisturised. Despite this, however, I can’t seem to grow any more than a little peach fuzz around my chin and upper lip. So what’s it like being in a society where beards are widely seen as a sign of style, strength and masculinity, yet you’re incapable of growing one.

Beard-Shaming is Real

Firstly, other men have absolutely no qualms when it comes to mocking you for your inability to grow a beard. Even men who can only grow the slightest amount of stubble have no sympathy and feel its easy to joke about. Don’t get me wrong, I understand teasing is part of a friendly conversation but when people are essentially criticising the way you look because of your genetics, and therefore unchangeable, it’s difficult to stomach.

Society is already picking up, and punishing, individuals for similar kinds of behaviour in different scenarios. Brands that directly or indirectly fat-shame consumers are ridiculed via social media and are often forced to apologise (quite rightly so). Assessing someone’s level of attractiveness or “manliness” based on one physical feature is something we should be growing out of as a society and sadly this isn’t the case.

The Alternatives Are Expensive & Dangerous

If you want to attempt to remedy your beard issues, there are a whole raft of supposed “solutions” that promise to encourage beard growth and give you that look that has always been out of reach. However, when you look at the research, there are a lot of health issues that are side-effects of these treatments.

One such solution is Minoxidil, an ingredient found in Regaine/Rogaine that is designed to increase blood flow in the areas where applied and encourage dormant hair follicles to become active. However, some of the many side-effects of applying this treatment daily include:

  • heart palpitations
  • dry/cracked skin in localised areas
  • irritated skin
  • increased heart rate

It’s also worth noting that the most successful cases took up to 6 months to see any significant impact on growth, so you’re already talking about spending hundreds of pounds on a treatment that could damage your health and might not even work.

The only guaranteed solution on offer is a beard transplant, essentially taking hair follicles from the back of your scalp and reapplying them to areas where the beard should grow. There are two main issues with this treatment however, firstly it takes 6 weeks of painfully tender skin around the face (so if you have any social/professional engagements, it’s likely to be difficult to hide) and secondly it is not permanent. At best it can last up to 5 years, though most promise between 2-3 years as a maximum life span. With all that in mind, alongside the fact it costs upwards of £3,000 for some of the most basic treatments, you can understand the difficult decision being faced by men who might choose to solve their follicle challenges.

Accepting it is HARD

I’m still struggling to come to terms with my inability to grow a beard. It’s put me off trying certain outfits and looks, it hindered me when I was on the dating scene and, despite my best efforts, being teased about it still touches a nerve. Even last weekend I spent 2 hours researching a new treatment aimed at helping this, only to find that the majority of doctors/dermatologists believe that it causes long-term, irreparable damage to your skin.

Whenever I talk about body image I always aim towards self-acceptance and the importance of being happy in your own image. Yet in this instance I would be a hypocrite if I said you should accept an inability to grow a beard, as I haven’t accepted it. So, for now you’ll have to forgive this as something of a rant mixed with a plea for help and a confirmation that others are not alone. Hopefully I learn to love every factor that makes me an individual but, until then, I think I’m stuck between desparation and sadness…

Thanks for checking out the post guys and, as always feel free to share it or like it if you enjoyed the read.  If you want, you can comment (anonymously) with your own experiences with beard/body image issues and what you have learnt from them. Maybe you’re still working through them. Maybe you don’t want to confront them. No matter what the situation, know that there is support out there and it starts with talking to someone.

Adam Walker - The Male Stylist